In September 2012 students starting post-primary school were the very first group to experience the reformed junior cycle in the English classroom. Since then, Science and Business Studies have been phased in and September 2017 will see Modern Foreign Languages as well as Irish, and Art Crafts and Design also begin their implementation. This will mark three of five phases in total. All five phases will be implemented at school level by 2019. By 2022 all subjects across junior cycle will have involved a classroom-based assessment component to complement the State’s summative junior certificate examination.
A Framework for Junior Cycle (2012 and 2015) set in motion a reform of the junior cycle which is underpinned by eight principles, eight key skills and 24 statements of learning. This will see all current subject syllabi replaced with subject specifications which directly link the principles, skills and statements of learning to prescribed content. Additionally, the introduction of short courses which can designed at local level i.e. by the school, makes the reformed junior cycle a more open and flexible curriculum.
Much attention has been given to the assessment aspect of the revised junior cycle. Assessment will now balance formative and summative approaches to better align with the experience of assessment overall across the junior cycle journey. The State (summative) examinations will be complemented by classroom-based (formative) assessments. This new approach to certified assessment looks to link knowledge, skills and competencies. Further, how students progress their learning is more explicitly valued as opposed to just getting a snapshot at a particular point in time during the student’s learning journey.
Already, in my school, I can see there is an apparent shift in focus from what students learn to how they learn. Students are being given tasks to emphasise the development of their skills in a more deliberate way. Teachers are more cognisant of formative feedback and providing this in a timely manner in response to student needs. Teachers are being given the opportunity to take part in an unprecedented level of CPD.
If you are interested in helping others to realise the vision of the new junior cycle, a number of opportunities are currently available. The Junior Cycle for Teachers team are recruiting Advisors and Team Leaders, mostly across the subjects to be phased in during the 2018 academic year. They are
- Home Economics
- Level 2 Learning Programmes
The NCCA have also published the draft specifications for consultation for Music, Home Economics, History and Geography. The draft specification for Mathematics is due in the near future. If you would like to have some input, visit the NCCA website and visit the consultation section at http://www.ncca.ie/en/Consultations .
For further information, resources or queries visit www.jct.ie .